Your car breaking down on the side of the road can be a very scary and potentially dangerous situation. This makes it important to know some of the main reasons your car might break down.
You should also know some warning signs that might hint that you are about to have a problem.
1. Dead Battery: A dead battery will not allow your car to start. This problem can happen when there is internal damage to the battery or if it is simply reaching the end of its life. When it’s about time to replace the battery you will start to notice the check engine light turning on or a slow crank when starting your vehicle. The easiest ways to fix this are to have your battery tested regularly, and replace it on a consistent schedule. Most batteries last around three years.
2. Flat or Damaged Tire: A completely flat tire should be obvious as you approach your car, and it will make the car unable to safely drive until the tire is replaced. A damaged tire may be less obvious because it could be something you might not notice like a screw or nail embedded inside. Tires should be replaced regularly and inspected often for damage or signs of wear. It’s also not a bad idea to keep a spare tire in your car just in case.
3. Alternator Issues: The alternator is the part of your car that helps supply everything with the needed power from the battery. If this part is starting to fail, you may notice things like dimming lights or issues getting your car started even when you know for sure that your battery is charged. If the alternator is damaged you will likely need a replacement done at your local mechanic shop.
4. Clutch Problems: If your clutch is having issues, one of the things you might notice are strange noises coming from your car. You may see that your car is revving, but you aren’t moving at all or are moving very slowly. It may also be hard to get your car into different gears. Your mechanic can tell you if you need to replace all the parts involved or just some of them.
5. Transmission: Some of the main signs that your transmission may be having trouble is a whine or clunking. You may also experience a rough idle, which can seem like your car is shaking even when you are in neutral or stopped at a light. There could even be leaking fluid or your transmission light may come on on your dashboard.
A normal transmission will last about 100,000 miles, or roughly seven years depending on how often you drive. When you are getting close to this point or if you spot any of these signs, then it’s time to replace your transmission.
6. Starter Motor: Some signs to look for if you suspect a starter motor issue would include not being able to start your car and a clicking noise that is heard. You will turn your key to start your car and nothing will happen. In theory, the starter motor could last for the majority of the life of your car, but there are no guarantees. One way to prevent issues is to not leave the key turned in the ignition for too long, as this can create dead spots on the starter and lead to issues.
7. Electrical Issues: Electrical issues may sound simple, but if a sensor is malfunctioning it can actually prevent your car from driving. Your car may show you a check engine light or another light on your dash to signal that something is wrong. You may also notice lights dimming while you are trying to drive.
You should have your car looked at by a qualified mechanic, and consider having things like your fuse plugs cleaned and changed on a regular basis.
As you can see, there are many things that could cause your car to break down. The important thing to understand is that while these issues may seem scary or overwhelming, they can in large part be prevented with regular maintenance and vigilance.
Drew Bishop is a contributing writer and media specialist for Service First Automotive. He regularly produces content for a variety of car safety and maintenance blogs.